Hall v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER granting 14 Plaintiff's Motion to Remand; denying 18 Defendant's Motion to Affirm. See attached. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter Judgment in favor of Plaintiff and to remand this matter to the Commissioner for rehearin g and further proceedings consistent with the attached Memorandum of Decision. The Clerk of the Court is further instructed that if a subsequent appeal to this Court is made following remand, it is to be directly assigned to the undersigned. Signed by Judge Kari A. Dooley on 8/1/2022. (Sweeney, Kevin)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
Acting Commissioner of the Social
AUGUST 1, 2022
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Kari A. Dooley, United States District Judge:
Plaintiff, Brandi H., brings this administrative appeal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Plaintiff appeals the decision of Defendant, Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”), denying his application for supplemental security
income pursuant to of Title XVI of the Act. Plaintiff moves to reverse the Commissioner’s decision
on the basis that the Commissioner’s findings are not supported by substantial evidence in the
record and/or that the Commissioner did not render a decision in accordance with applicable law.
Alternatively, Plaintiff seeks remand of this matter for further proceedings before the
Commissioner on the basis that she did not receive a full and fair hearing. The Commissioner
responds that the decision correctly applies applicable law and is supported by substantial evidence
in the record and, accordingly, moves for an order affirming the Commissioner’s decision. For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s motion to remand is GRANTED. (ECF No. 14)
Commissioner’s motion to affirm is DENIED. (ECF No. 18)
Standard of Review
A person is “disabled” under the Act if that person is unable to “engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can
be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). A physical or mental impairment is one
“that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Id. §
1382c(a)(3)(D). In addition, a claimant must establish that their physical or mental impairment or
impairments are of such severity that they are not only unable to do their previous work but
“cannot, considering [their] age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. . .” Id. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Pursuant to regulations promulgated by the Commissioner, a five-step sequential
evaluation process is used to determine whether a claimant’s condition meets the Act’s definition
of disability. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. In brief, the five steps are as follows: (1) the Commissioner
determines whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, the
Commissioner determines whether the claimant has “a severe medically determinable physical or
mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in § 416.909” or a combination of
impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirements; (3) if such a severe impairment is
identified, the Commissioner next determines whether the medical evidence establishes that the
claimant’s impairment “meets or equals” an impairment listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations
(the “Listings”); 1 (4) if the claimant does not establish the “meets or equals” requirement, the
Commissioner must then determine the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
his past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant is unable to perform his past work, the Commissioner
must finally determine whether there is other work in the national economy which the claimant
can perform in light of their RFC, education, age, and work experience. Id. §§ 416.909;
Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Part 404 of C.F.R. 20 is the “Listing of Impairments.”
416.920(a)(4)(i)–(v). The claimant bears the burden of proof with respect to Steps One through
Four and the Commissioner bears the burden of proof as to Step Five. See McIntyre v. Colvin, 758
F.3d 146, 150 (2d Cir. 2014); Sczepanski v. Saul, 946 F.3d 152, 158 (2d Cir. 2020).
The fourth sentence of § 405(g) of the Act provides that a “court shall have power to enter,
upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the
decision of the Commissioner. . . with or without remanding the case for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). “The scope of review of a Social Security disability determination involves two levels
of inquiry. First, the court must decide whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal
principles in making the determination. Second, the court must decide whether the determination
is supported by substantial evidence.” Alban v. Astrue, No. 3:11 CV 1119 CSH, 2012 WL
6728055, at *1 (D. Conn. Dec. 6, 2012), report and recommendation adopted, No. 3:11-CV-1119
CSH, 2012 WL 6728050 (D. Conn. Dec. 28, 2012). It is well-settled that a district court will
reverse the decision of the Commissioner only when it is based upon legal error or when it is not
supported by substantial evidence in the record. Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998);
see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact,
if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . .”). “Substantial evidence is more than
a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (internal quotations
omitted). The court does not inquire as to whether the record might also support the plaintiff’s
claims but only whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner’s decision.
Bonet ex rel. T.B. v. Colvin, 523 Fed. Appx. 58, 59 (2d Cir. 2013). Thus, substantial evidence can
support the Commissioner’s findings even if there is the potential for drawing more than one
conclusion from the record. See Vance v. Berryhill, 860 F.3d 1114, 1120 (8th Cir. 2017). The court
can only reject the Commissioner’s findings of facts “if a reasonable factfinder would have to
conclude otherwise.” Brault v. Social Sec. Admin., 683 F.3d 443, 448 (2d Cir. 2012). Stated simply,
“[u]nless the Commissioner relied on an incorrect interpretation of the law, [i]f there is substantial
evidence to support the determination, it must be upheld.” Taylor v. Berryhill, No. 3:17-CV-01436
(SRU), 2018 WL 4562349, at *2 (D. Conn. Sept. 24, 2018) (citing Selian v. Astrue, 708 F.3d 409,
417 (2d Cir. 2013)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“If the court identifies a legal error, the court may remand the matter to the Commissioner
under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), particularly if deemed necessary to allow the ALJ to
develop a full and fair record or to explain his or her reasoning.” McIntire v. Astrue, 809 F. Supp.
2d 13, 18–19 (D. Conn. 2010). “Where the decision is not supported by substantial evidence, the
Court may remand for a rehearing. Rehearing is the proper remedy ‘when ‘further findings’ would
so plainly help to assure the proper disposition of [the] claim. . . .’” Talyosef, 2019 WL 4017025,
at *3 (citing Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 83 (2d Cir. 1999)). The decision of whether to remand
for a rehearing rests within the sound discretion of the district court. Butts v. Barnhart, 388 F.3d
377, 385 (2d Cir. 2004).
Factual and Procedural History
On August 27, 2019, Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income 2
pursuant to Title XVI of the Act,3 alleging a disability onset date of June 13, 2012. (Tr. 15) Her
claim was initially denied on November 12, 2019, and upon reconsideration on June 16, 2020.
(Id.) Thereafter, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on November 3,
The regulations for supplemental security income are found at 20 C.F.R. § 416.1400 et seq.
42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.
On December 16, 2020, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Plaintiff’s application
for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act. (Tr. 15–27) At Step One, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had not been engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date she filed her
application on August 27, 2019. (Tr. 17) At Step Two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had a
severe combination of impairments, which included: degenerative disc disease of the lumbosacral
spine with mild effect on the L5-S1 nerve root, status post laminectomy, degenerative joint disease
of the right hip, and morbid obesity. (Id.) At Step Three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in the regulations. 4 (Tr. 19) At Step Four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had the RFC to perform sedentary work5 subject to several limitations, to include that Plaintiff
could not climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or tolerate exposure to hazards such as open, moving
machinery and unprotected heights. (Tr. 20) The ALJ Found that Plaintiff required a cane while
ambulating. (Id.) The ALJ further found that Plaintiff could occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. (Id.) Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
capable of performing her past relevant work as a receptionist because this work does not require
the performance of work-related activities precluded by her RFC. (Tr. 26) The ALJ thus concluded
that Plaintiff was not disabled under § 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Act from the date she filed her
application on August 27, 2019, through the date of decision, December 16, 2020. (Tr. 27), and
was therefore not entitled to supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Act. 6 (Id.) This
timely appeal followed.
See 20 C.F.R. § Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (listing qualifying impairments). The ALJ specifically referenced
20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926.
“Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like
docket files, ledgers, and small tools. . . . Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required occasionally and
other sedentary criteria are met.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(a).
On October 1, 2021, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision. (Tr. 1)
Plaintiff advances a singular argument seeking remand to the Commissioner for a new
hearing. She asserts that the ALJ erred at Step Three because he applied an incorrect legal standard
when determining that the severe impairment to her lower back did not meet or equal the criteria
of Listing 1.04(A). Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ determined that she did not meet
Listing 1.04 because she could effectively ambulate. However, Plaintiff argues that the inability
to effectively ambulate is a criteria required only under Listing 1.04(C) and is not required in order
to meet Listing 1.04(A). Thus, she argues, the ALJ applied the wrong legal standard. The
Commissioner does not respond directly to this argument and generally asserts that the ALJ
decision is supported by substantial evidence. As noted above however, the question of substantial
evidence is reached only upon a determination that the correct legal principles were applied.
Although the Court disagrees with Plaintiff that the ALJ determined that she failed to meet Listing
1.04(A) on the sole basis that she could effectively ambulate, remand for further consideration to
determine whether her impairment meets Listing 1.04(A) is required given the paucity of
explanation for the listing determination and the apparent inconsistency between this
determination and the ALJ’s findings regarding Plaintiff’s RFC.
“The Social Security regulations list certain impairments, any of which is sufficient, at step
three, to create an irrebuttable presumption of disability. The regulations also provide for a finding
of such a disability per se if an individual has an impairment that is ‘equal to’ a listed impairment.”
DeChirico v. Callahan, 134 F.3d 1177, 1180 (2d Cir. 1998); see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d). “An
impairment meets the requirements of one of these listings ‘when it satisfies all of the criteria’ of
a [L]isting.” Bouton, 2007 WL 2889449, at *2 (citing Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S. 521, 530
(1990)); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1525(c)(3); 416.925(c)(3)). “The claimant . . . bears the burden of
proving that her impairments meet [a] particular Listing.” Rivera v. Berryhill, No. 3:17-CV-01760
(SRU), 2019 WL 4744821, at *11 (D. Conn. Sept. 30, 2019); Otts v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 249 F.
App'x 887, 889 (2d Cir. 2007). “To show that [s]he meets the criteria [of a Listing], [the claimant]
must offer medical findings equal in severity to all requirements, which findings must be supported
by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” Conetta v. Berryhill, 365
F. Supp. 3d 383, 396 (S.D.N.Y. 2019) (internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]he ALJ is required
to articulate the specific reasons justifying his decision that the claimant does or does not meet the
relevant listing.” Howarth v. Berryhill, No. 3:16-CV-1844 (JCH), 2017 WL 6527432, at *5 (D.
Conn. Dec. 21, 2017) (citing cases). Where the ALJ concludes that the relevant listing has not been
met, the ALJ must specifically articulate “the uncontroverted evidence that supports the claimant's
application for benefits, and the significantly probative evidence that he or she rejects.” Id. at *8.
Section 1.04 of the List of Impairments “relates to disorders of the spine, and there are
three subsections of Listing 1.04: (A), (B),7 and (C), only one of which needs to be satisfied for a
claimant to meet the Listing requirements.” Alban, 2012 WL 6728055, at *3. Listing 1.04 “requires
a highly specific, medically determinable finding of a spinal disorder, ‘(e.g., herniated nucleus
pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, 8 facet
arthritis, vertebral fracture), resulting in compromise of a nerve root (including the cauda equina)
or the spinal cord.’” Gonzalez ex rel. Guzman v. Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Health & Hum. Servs., 360
F. App'x 240, 244 (2d Cir. 2010) (citing 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 1.04). To satisfy
Listing 1.04(A), a claimant must establish the initial criteria of disorders of the spine in Listing
To satisfy Listing 1.04(B), which is not at issue here, a claimant must establish the initial criteria of disorders of the
spine in Listing 1.04, along with “[s]pinal arachnoiditis, confirmed by an operative note or pathology report of tissue
biopsy, or by appropriate medically acceptable imaging, manifested by severe burning or painful dysesthesia, resulting
in the need for changes in position or posture more than once every [two] hours.” Schieno v. Colvin, No. 5:15-CV0335 (GTS), 2016 WL 1664909, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 26, 2016).
The ALJ determined that one of Plaintiff’s severe impairments was degenerative disc disease of the lumbosacral
spine with mild effect on the L5-S1 nerve root, status post laminectomy.
1.04, along with “[e]vidence of nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic
distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle
weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement
of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine).” Schieno, 2016 WL
1664909, at *4. Alternatively, “[t]o satisfy Listing 1.04(C), a claimant must establish the initial
criteria of disorders of the spine in Listing 1.04, along with, “[l]umbar spinal stenosis resulting in
pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate medically acceptable imaging,
manifested by chronic nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability
to ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.” 9 Alban, 2012 WL 6728055, at *3 n.5 (emphasis
Here, Plaintiff maintains that “[L]isting 1.04(A) would be, in fact, the applicable listing.”
(ECF No. 14-2 at 11 n.8.) The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not meet her burden of establishing
that her impairments met or equaled the criteria of any listing under 1.04. In reaching this
determination, the ALJ stated as follows:
The claimant’s degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine was evaluated under
listing 1.04 concerning disorders of the spine and failed to meet the criteria. . . .
[A]lthough imaging has established the presence of lumbar stenosis, it does not
result in the inability to ambulate effectively. . . . [T]he claimant is able to ambulate
without a walker. . . . Overall, her examinations show that she is able to ambulate
with a cane and has 4/5 or 5/5 strength of the lower extremities. . . . Otherwise,
there is no evidence satisfying the listing criteria for nerve root compression or
spinal arachnoiditis. Thus, the claimant’s degenerative disc disease does not meet
the criteria of listing 1.04.
Listing 1.00B2b provides as follows: The inability to ambulate effectively means an extreme limitation of the ability
to walk; i.e., an impairment(s) that interferes very seriously with the individual's ability to independently initiate,
sustain, or complete activities. Ineffective ambulation is defined generally as having insufficient lower extremity
functioning . . . to permit independent ambulation without the use of a hand-held assistive device(s) that limits the
functioning of both upper extremities.” Schieno, 2016 WL 1664909, at *5. “In other words, to constitute an inability
to ambulate effectively, walking must involve the use of both arms, such as with a pair of canes or a walker.” Id. *6.
“Cases may arise . . . in which [the court] would be unable to fathom the ALJ's rationale in
relation to evidence in the record, especially where credibility determinations and inference
drawing is required of the ALJ. In such instances, [the court] [should] not hesitate to remand the
case for further findings or a clearer explanation for the decision.” Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d
464, 469 (2d Cir. 1982). Unfortunately, the portion of the ALJ's decision rejecting Plaintiff’s claim
of a listed disability is “entirely conclusory and provides the [C]ourt with no understanding of the
basis for the ALJ's decision.” Nieves v. Colvin, No. 3:15-CV-01842 (JCH), 2016 WL 7489041, at
*5 (D. Conn. Dec. 30, 2016); Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 468 (2d Cir. 1982). There is little
question that the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff could ambulate effectively was a significant factor in
the Listing determination. And Plaintiff is correct that effective ambulation is not a necessary
showing in order to meet Listing 1.04(A). See Alban, 2012 WL 6728055, at *4 n.10 (“[The
claimant] correctly observes that defendant's contention that [her] impairment does not meet
Listing 1.04[A] because she cannot establish an ‘inability to ambulate effectively’ is thoroughly
misplaced as . . . the inability to ambulate effectively is a condition of Listing 1.04(C). . . . [T]he
Court declines to adopt defendant's assertion that [the claimant] cannot establish Listing 1.04(A)
without establishing that an inability to ambulate effectively.”). Further, the Court’s assessment is
made more difficult by the ALJ’s failure to specify or address the various and distinct criteria under
which the listing determination was made. Indeed, as relevant to Listings 1.04(A), the ALJ offered
a single sentence: “Otherwise, there is no evidence satisfying the listing criteria for nerve root
compression.” (Tr. 19) (emphasis added) But this statement is so obviously incorrect and
inconsistent with the findings made with respect to Plaintiff’s RFC, that a remand for further
consideration on this issue is necessary. See Howarth, 2017 WL 6527432, at *5.10
The Court acknowledges that ALJ’s failure to articulate his or her rationale may be harmless if the ALJ's reasons
can be discerned from other steps in the ALJ's analysis or from the evidence in the record. Berry v. Schweiker, 675
First, the record is replete with objective medical findings tending to establish that Plaintiff
suffered from the initial criteria of Listing 1.04. Indeed, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers
from degenerative disc disease of the lumbosacral spine which is what required the ALJ to then
consider Listing 1.04.11 But more to the point, there are objective medical findings tending to
establish that the severity of Plaintiff’s spinal disorder may have met the additional criteria of
Listing 1.04(A), specifically nerve root compression. The April 3, 2012 MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar
spine demonstrated mild bilateral foraminal narrowing by encroaching disc, and large left
paracentral and foraminal disc protrusion at L5-S1 which displaced the left S1 nerve root. (Tr.
830–31) The August 13, 2019 MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine demonstrated narrowing of the left
subarticular recess with impingement on the traversing left S1 nerve root. (Tr. 481) The MRI also
revealed left hemilaminectomy with disc protrusion and impingement on the exiting left L5 nerve
F.2d 464, 469 (2d Cir. 1982) (per curiam); Howarth, 2017 WL 6527432, at *5 (citing cases). However, for the reasons
discussed infra, such is not the case here. Accordingly, the Court concludes that remand is proper for further findings
and a clearer explanation of the decision. See Lamar v. Berryhill, No. 3:17-CV-1019 (MPS), 2018 WL 3642656, at
*5 (D. Conn. Aug. 1, 2018) (“[W]here the Court is unable to fathom the ALJ's rationale in relation to evidence in the
record, especially where credibility determinations and inference drawing is required of the ALJ, this Court must
remand for further findings or a clearer explanation of the decision.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).
For example, as early as April 3, 2012, an MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine demonstrated right-sided sacralization of
fifteen vertebra, minor diffuse disc bulge, mild canal narrowing, mild bilateral foraminal narrowing by encroaching
disc, large left paracentral and foraminal disc protrusion at L5-S1 which displaced Plaintiff’s left S1 nerve root, and a
moderate left foraminal narrowing. (Tr. 830–31) Plaintiff was diagnosed with left L5 and S1 radiculitis secondary to
L4-5 and L5-S1 disk herniations, which required surgical intervention. (Tr. 534) Plaintiff was also diagnosed with a
recurrent left L5-S1 prolapsed disk with associated radiculopathy. (Tr. 663) Both diagnoses required surgical
intervention. (Tr. 534, 633) On September 11, 2014, Plaintiff was diagnosed with newly onset sacral disorder. (Tr.
575) A July 20, 2017 x-ray demonstrated small endplate osteophytes throughout Plaintiff’s thoracic spine. (Tr. 914)
The x-ray also showed mild to moderate multilevel degenerative changes with disc space narrowing and facet
arthropathy, most pronounced at L5-S1, demonstrating mild to moderate lower lumbosacral spine spondylosis. (Tr.
919). Thereafter, a June 27, 2019 x-ray of Plaintiff’s cervical, thoracic, and lumbosacral spine showed mild to
moderate multilevel disc space narrowing and osteophyte formation, which demonstrated mild levoscoliosis and mild
multilevel discovertebral degenerative changes of her thoracic spine, chronic loss of disc space at L4-5 and L5-S1 and
chronic, minimal retrolisthesis of L4 on L5. (Tr. 479–80). An August 13, 2019 MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine showed
sequelae of left-sided hemilaminectomy at L4-L5 and L5-S1, bilateral facet arthropathy with ligamenta flava
hypertrophy, broad-based posterior disc protrusion with narrowing of the subarticular recesses, and overall
degenerative changes. (Tr. 481) An October 9, 2019 x-ray of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine showed L4-5 and L5-S1
degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 364) An October 9, 2019 MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine further showed recurrent disk
herniation and subarticular stenosis at L4-5. (Tr. 364–65) A July 17, 2020 MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine revealed
central protrusion at L4-L5, stable moderate spinal canal stenosis, narrowing of the left subarticular zone, mild
spondylosis, mild degenerative changes, and disc height loss at L4-L5, L5-S1, and T10-T1. (Tr. 655–56).
root, as well as L5 disc impingement. (Tr. 423) Plaintiff’s October 9, 2019 examination for chronic
left lower extremity lumbar radiculopathy, numbness, and tingling found that Plaintiff had
decreased sensation in her left L5 and S1 nerve root distribution. (Tr. 364) The October 9, 2019
MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine further showed recurrent disk herniation and possible scarring
over her left L5-S1 nerve root as well as subarticular stenosis at L4-5. (Tr. 364–65) The July 17,
2020 MRI of Plaintiff’s lumbar spine revealed central protrusion at L4-L5 with mass effect on the
traversing L5 nerve roots in the subarticular zones and mild mass effect on both exiting L4 nerve
roots. (Tr. 656) The MRI also revealed narrowing of the left subarticular zone with mild mass
effect on the traversing left S1 nerve root and mild mass effect on the exiting left L5 nerve root.
(Id.) Moreover, from March of 2012 through August of 2020, examinations by various healthcare
providers throughout the relevant period consistently demonstrated positive straight leg raises,
chronic pain, weakness, sensory loss, and decreased range of motion. (Tr. 317, 325, 329, 412, 420,
461–64, 616, 619, 622, 625, 629, 634, 646, 672–76, 681–88, 690–99, 731–35)
Although the ALJ acknowledged many of these objective medical findings when
fashioning Plaintiff’s RFC, the ALJ nevertheless concluded that the record contained “no evidence
satisfying the listing criteria for nerve root compression.” (Tr. 19, 21–25) (Emphasis added) The
administrative record does not support such a summary rejection of Plaintiff’s claim. Nieves, 2016
WL 7489041, at *5. Rather, “[t]he ALJ's singular conclusion stands in stark contrast to the
extensive . . . findings detailed above that [tend to] satisfy the Listing requirements” of 1.04(A).
Alban, 2012 WL 6728055, at *4. The ALJ's lack of analysis and utter failure to provide reasons
for his statement leaves this Court unable to determine whether his conclusion that Plaintiff's
condition does not meet any listing is supported by substantial evidence. Id.; Howarth, 2017 WL
6527432, at *7.
In sum, the presence of objective medical evidence in the record, and the ALJ’s reliance
upon this evidence when establishing Plaintiff’s RFC, cannot be reconciled with the ALJ’s
assessment that there is “no evidence” of nerve root compression. At the very least, it raises a
significant question as to whether the ALJ applied the correct legal principles when evaluating the
Plaintiff’s degenerative disc disease at Step Three, as urged by Plaintiff. Because the ALJ appears
to have used an improper standard to evaluate Plaintiff’s impairments, failed to consider the
entirety of the evidence of record, and did not articulate the specific reasons justifying his decision,
remand is appropriate on the issue of whether Plaintiff’s severe impairment meets the requirements
of Listing 1.04(A). Alban, 2012 WL 6728055, at *4; see Berry, 675 F.2d at 469 (mandating remand
“for further findings or a clearer explanation for the decision” where the court is “unable to fathom
the ALJ’s rationale in relation to evidence in the record”); see Howarth, 2017 WL 6527432, at *8
(“Where, as here, the court cannot discern the ALJ's rationale because the ALJ failed to address
the evidence in the record on either side, the ALJ's failure to articulate is itself a sufficient basis to
remand.”); see Taylor, 2018 WL 4562349, at *6 (citing Rosa, 168 F.3d at 82–83) (remanding
where it appears the ALJ used an improper standard in determining whether claimant met the
requirements of Listing 1.04(A)).
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion to remand is GRANTED. (ECF No. 14)
Commissioner’s motion to affirm is DENIED. (ECF No. 18) The Clerk of the Court is directed to
enter Judgment in favor of Plaintiff and to remand this matter to the Commissioner for rehearing
and further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42. U.S.C. § 405(g) and consistent with this
Memorandum of Decision. On remand, the Commissioner shall specifically consider the record
evidence regarding criteria relevant to Listing 1.04(A) and articulate reasons for accepting or
rejecting such evidence in determining whether Plaintiff’s impairments meet the severity
The Clerk of the Court is further instructed that if a subsequent appeal to this Court is made
following remand, it is to be directly assigned to the undersigned.
SO ORDERED at Bridgeport, Connecticut, this 1st day of August 2022.
/s/ Kari A. Dooley
KARI A. DOOLEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The Court offers no opinion as to what the outcome of such an assessment should be.
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